Tents / Tarps / Bivies
Wild Camping

Lightweight Backpacks
Sleeping Bags

Wilderness Survival
Hiking Adventures

Edible Wild Plants
Survival Kits

Lightweight Backpacking
How Much Should You Carry?


If you are carrying twenty-five pounds, you aren't going lightweight. Maybe I just make up these standards, but I try to be reasonable. I regularly backpack with less than fifteen pounds total weight. Most people can go backpacking carrying less than twenty pounds for a three-day trip, and less than thirty for a week-long trip.

First of all, throw out those pack weight/body weight formulas. If you want to enjoy lightweight backpacking, you'll never be close to what they say you can carry anyhow. It isn't important how much you can carry, only how much you need to carry to be comfortable.

Lightweight Backpacking Isn't Masochism

The biggest reason to go light is to enjoy the trip more. So you don't want to leave crucial things behind or otherwise make yourself miserable, just so you can call it lightweight backpacking.

A good rule is this: Go as light as you can without sacrificing those things that are important to you (safety items, a good book, a bottle of rum?). It isn't about giving things up. It is about carefully considering what you really need to have a good time, and replacing heavier things with lighter things. If you really need an inflatable pad, you can get rid of that 2-pounder and buy a 13-ounce Thermarest Prolite 3. My Western Mountaineeringsleeping bag weighs only 17 ounces and it has kept me warmer than any 3 or 4 pound bag I've had. Set aside your lightest sweater, socks, hat, etc, for your next lightweight backpacking trip. When you can afford to, buy one of the big three (pack, tent, bag) because this is where you can save the most weight. Going light is usually expensive for us devotees, but I've gone 110 miles in seven days (no blisters) with $7 running shoes, so you don't have to spend a lot.

How Much Weight?

With the proper equipment and strategies, you probably will be comfortable and safe with less than twenty pounds on your back for the weekend. Watch yourself and learn what you can. What do you actually use, and which items brought you the most comfort? Pay attention and you can leave some things behind next time, replace others with lighter items, and still have everything you need. That's lightweight backpacking at its best.

For an example of a really lightweight trip, go to:
A Lightweight Backpacking List: 3 Days Under 10 Pounds
To learn some of the options available for each item, see:
Light, Lighter, Lightest: An Ultralight Backpacking Gear List.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Lightweight Backpacking